Four WNBA Draft day fake trades that could help both teams

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 2: Kiah Stokes
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 2: Kiah Stokes /

The Las Vegas Aces are on the clock. How many surprises are in store for Thursday’s WNBA Draft (7 PM ET) on ESPN2 and ESPNU?

Depends who you ask. Depends on what you’d call a surprise.

Every mock draft in sight projects South Carolina’s A’ja Wilson to go first overall to Las Vegas. Most mocks also have Ohio State point guard Kelsey Mitchell going to the Indiana Fever second overall.

Which potential decision early in the first round would have the biggest ripple effect on the rest of the league? There’s a great deal of intrigue around Azura Stevens, who chose to forego her final season of eligibility at UConn.

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Look for Indiana and Chicago to set the tone for the evening with what they do early on in the first round. Indiana also holds the eighth pick, and Chicago holds the third and fourth overall picks. Earlier this week, our own Howard Megdal reported on several teams inquiring about the second overall pick with hopes of landing Mitchell themselves.

It’s hard to imagine another team could slide in with an offer enticing enough that the Fever or Sky would pass on the opportunity to draft the top players in this class.

Piecing potential WNBA moves together is tough to do. For one, the draft occurs after free agency in the WNBA. The draft comes first in the NBA, meaning those teams likely have more open roster spots at the time of the draft. There are also fewer total jobs available in the WNBA. Second and third round picks face a steep uphill battle in making an opening night roster.

Fake trades aren’t for everyone. That said, they can be a valuable thought exercise, especially in a league with only 144 roster slots to fill. With the needs of each team in mind, here are four fake draft day trades that could potentially help both parties involved.


Fake Trade #1

Connecticut receives: G/F Stephanie Talbot, No. 20 overall pick

Phoenix receives:  G Rachel Banham, No. 15 overall pick

Why it could make sense: The Mercury ought to be giddy coming off this year’s free agency period. One of last year’s semifinalists brought back DeWanna Bonner, signed unrestricted free agent Sancho Lyttle, then managed to acquire Briann January from the Fever. Phoenix appears to be set on the perimeter with Bonner, January, Diana Taurasi, Leilani Mitchell and Yvonne Turner. Talbot started on the wing for most of the season before being supplanted by Turner.

The Mercury could get a look at Banham, a good three-point shooter with some potential as a combo guard. Acquiring a high second rounder could also set them up to use their first rounder on international prospect Maria Vadeeva. Even if Vadeeva chooses not to come over immediately, the Mercury could use the second rounder from Connecticut on a player they feel is capable of earning a roster spot for the 2018 season. Talbot showed some promise last season as a rookie, and she would help balance out a deep Connecticut roster already equipped to push for a top-four seed once again this season.

INDIANAPOLIS, IN – AUGUST 20: Marissa Coleman
INDIANAPOLIS, IN – AUGUST 20: Marissa Coleman /

Fake Trade #2

Atlanta receives: G/F Marissa Coleman

Indiana receives:  No. 16 overall pick

Why it could make sense: On surface, these two trade chips are not of equal value. The idea here is simple. Indiana could send Coleman to a team in a better position to make a deep playoff run. As of Wednesday, Atlanta has two open roster spots. They are stocked on the perimeter, especially if Maggie Lucas returns to form coming off a knee injury. Even still, Coleman is a bigger wing with some playoff experience.

This is an easy way for the Fever to make good with one of their veterans, because they too have plenty of younger players that can soak up minutes on the wing. Tiffany Mitchell and Jazmon Gwathmey are younger players with some potential, and Erica Wheeler played well enough in 2017 that head coach and general manager Pokey Chatman may want to get an extended look at her in some lineups alongside Kelsey Mitchell (should Indiana select her with the No. 2 pick).

INDIANAPOLIS, IN – SEPTEMBER 2: Isabelle Harrison /

Fake Trade #3

Los Angeles receives: F Isabelle Harrison, No. 13 overall pick

Las Vegas receives: G Riquna Williams, No. 11 overall pick

Why it could make sense: The Sparks would add a player capable of earning minutes as their fourth big, which would be all the more important in a condensed season. Drafting A’ja Wilson and playing her at the four spot could make Harrison somewhat expendable for the Aces, especially considering she’s due to hit restricted free agency next offseason.

Williams battled some nagging injuries last season. The Sparks went out and signed unrestricted free agent guard Cappie Pondexter this offseason. It’s highly unlikely that one of the WNBA’s 20 greatest players would sign with a team that doesn’t plan on playing her. Minutes may not be there to begin with for Williams in LA in 2018. The Aces could be in position to better accommodate her as a scoring guard off the bench.

The Sparks get the younger player addressing a more glaring need still set to be under team control. In exchange, the Aces get to move up two slots, which could loom large, depending on how short their draft board is by that point.

NEW YORK, NY – SEPTEMBER 10: Epiphanny Prince
NEW YORK, NY – SEPTEMBER 10: Epiphanny Prince /

Fake Trade #4

Dallas receives: G Epiphanny Prince, F/C Kiah Stokes, No. 10 overall pick, No. 22 overall pick

New York receives:  F Glory Johnson, F/C Breanna Lewis, No. 6 overall pick, No. 18 overall pick

Why it could make sense: This one is out there. Dallas could really use another guard that can create some offense and play alongside Skylar Diggins-Smith with or without the ball. Prince fits that bill to a tee. She’s experienced and is a heady, physical defender on the perimeter. Stokes brings both upside and immediate help at the center spot. Liz Cambage has been away from the WNBA for quite some time. Whether it’s as foul trouble insurance or an extra measure to keep Cambage’s minutes down, head coach Fred Williams would certainly welcome another big, strong center that he can trust to log 15+ minutes every night.

Johnson has been and is an extremely valuable piece to the Wings. However, let’s say Dallas’ top players are off the board. Or, maybe they’re just confident that the player they’re eyeing would be available four picks later. Prince and Stokes could slide into important roles immediately, which could even offset the idea of Dallas passing up one of the top players on their board at No. 6 whom they wouldn’t play heavy minutes in 2018 anyway. New York is loaded in the backcourt and would likely struggle to find minutes for everybody. This could give them an opportunity to add another complementary frontcourt piece to give head coach Katie Smith more options to mix and match around centerpiece Tina Charles depending upon the matchups on a given night.

This one is out there not just because it involves three rotation players from playoff teams. It puts Johnson in New York along with the No. 6 pick, which would presumably only become more attractive if a player at her position — namely Gabby Williams or Azura Stevens — is still available.

To wrap things up, here’s a quick look at my mock draft. (Just for kicks, I’ll act as if all four trades listed above were agreed upon before the start of the draft.)

  1. Las Vegas — A’ja Wilson, F, South Carolina
  2. Indiana — Kelsey Mitchell, G, Ohio State
  3. Chicago — Diamond DeShields, G/F, Cukorva/Tennessee
  4. Chicago — Azura Stevens, F, UConn
  5. Seattle — Jordin Canada, G, UCLA
  6. New York (via Dallas) — Gabby Williams, F, UConn
  7. Washington — Victoria Vivians, G/F, Mississippi State
  8. Indiana — Kia Nurse, G, UConn
  9. Connecticut — Ariel Atkins, G, Texas
  10. Dallas (via New York) — Lexie Brown, G, Duke
  11. Las Vegas (via Los Angeles) — Marie Gulich, F/C, Oregon State
  12. Phoenix — Maria Vadeeva, F/C, Russia
  13. Los Angeles (via Las Vegas) — Monique Billings, F, UCLA
  14. Indiana — Jaime Nared, F, Tennessee
  15. Phoenix (via Connecticut) — Kristy Wallace, G, Baylor
  16. Indiana (via Atlanta) — Natalie Butler, C, George Mason
  17. Minnesota — Tyler Scaife, G, Rutgers
  18. New York (via Dallas) — Stephanie Mavunga, F/C, Ohio State
  19. Washington — Myisha Hines-Allen, F, Louisville
  20. Connecticut (via Phoenix) — Shakayla Thomas, F, Florida State
  21. Phoenix — Imani Wright, G, Florida State
  22. Dallas (via New York) — Mercedes Russell, C, Tennessee
  23. Los Angeles — Mikayla Cowling, G/F, Cal
  24. Minnesota — Kaylee Jensen, F/C, Oklahoma State
  25. Las Vegas — Raisa Musina, F, Russia
  26. Phoenix — Jill Barta, F, Gonzaga
  27. Atlanta — Taeler Deer, G, Texas State
  28. Chicago — Katelynn Flaherty, G, Michigan
  29. Seattle — Gabbi Ortiz, G, Oklahoma
  30. Dallas — Loryn Goodwin, G, Oklahoma State
  31. Washington — Tyra Buss, G, Indiana
  32. Las Vegas — Brooke Johnson, G/F, UNLV
  33. Connecticut — Chelsea Nelson, F, NC State
  34. New York — Brooke McCarty, G, Texas
  35. Los Angeles — Cherise Beynon, G, New Mexico
  36. Minnesota — Brittany McPhee, G, Stanford

Next: WNBA Draft Preview Podcast